Too efficient ?

24Each company is functioning at its own pace, its own rhythm. If an employee has the required abilities for his assigned role but is functioning slower than the average, he is potentially in trouble because he will most probably not be able to adapt quickly enough or to simply deliver on time.

But when an employee is not fitting, it might well not be because he is too slow or not qualified  (we assume here that the person is appropriately skilled and socially integrated) but on the contrary because he is functioning faster than normal (above average). These cases are less frequent and consequently unexpected, misunderstood and often misinterpreted.

In the complex task of managing efficiently a company, managers cannot ignore the implicit or unconscious aspects that drive many human behaviours (see ‘the shadow of the enterprise). For example the human being often tends to map his own explanations to an observed behaviour (projection mechanism[1][2]) i.e. if I (myself) was doing or saying ‘this’, it would be for ‘that’ reason. But of course we do not really know or have access to why another person did or said ‘this’, we can only suppose or infer. Since validating what we infer by asking questions is not a common mechanism, negative interpretations increase.

For these reasons, a person behaviour which is considered not “normal”, i.e. different from the majority, is very rarely interpreted positively and some of the following questions may emerge from his environment:

  • Is he trying to show that he is better than me ?
  • Is he trying to show that he can do more ?
  • Is he challenging my position ?
  • He completed that task in two days and it takes normally one week, what will my management think ?
  • Will I have to match that pace and undergo more pressure ?
  • Is he trying to change the way we work ?

These are some of the potential reasons individuals can think of why THEY would behave like this (projection). But persons may adopt an efficient behaviour naturally with no hidden agenda and for them, slowing down is not an easy or practical option.

The trick part is that recruitment processes aim at selecting the most efficient individuals but do not always make sure these persons will fit with the actual functioning of the company. This is amplified by the fact that job descriptions often do not reflect accurately the actual day-to-day job reality.

It is important to attract the best performers, but it is equally important to be able to keep and ‘feed’ them. For that purpose and in the company interest, job descriptions must match as closely as possible the real nature of the job. The recruitment process must also clearly explain the company functioning to the applicant, especially in its less tangible aspects (values, beliefs, behaviours, culture).

In conclusion, being more efficient on a ‘technical’ side is always better but on the human side and consequently in term of the overall company effectiveness, ‘more’ might be as problematic as ‘less’.

To avoid ‘more’ to be a problem that gets finally empirically solved (or not), natural performers must be clearly identified and require a human environment which understands and accept their atypical nature and behaviour. They must be assigned roles and tasks that match their particular abilities which are often combined with creative and unusual personalities.


[1] psychological projection, Wikipedia
[2] psychological projection, Encyclopedia Britannica

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